Ruby Jones is among signings for New Lambton in Herald Women's Premier League 2020

NEW CHALLENGE: Australian under-16 goalkeeper Ruby Jones will play for New Lambton in Herald Women's Premier League. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers
NEW CHALLENGE: Australian under-16 goalkeeper Ruby Jones will play for New Lambton in Herald Women's Premier League. Picture: Max Mason-Hubers

Ruby Jones plans to seize her first Herald Women's Premier League season with both hands. Literally.

The 16-year-old goalkeeper has already been identified as part of Australia's rising football talent and has her sights set on a W-League career.

But she will have big shoes to fill with defending champions New Lambton, where her dad Brad has taken on the head coach role.

The Eagles will have a target firmly planted on their backs after claiming the minor premiership-championship double in just their second season.

They have lost six key players from their successful 2019 campaign in Newcastle Jets Tara Andrews and Lauren Allan, midfielders Sophie Jones and Imogen Tusek, defender Jenna Kennedy and goalkeeper Imogene Tomasone.

Andrews and Allan will play in NSW National Premier League, Tusek has joined Newcastle Olympic, and Kennedy, Jones and Tomasone are not playing WPL.

Tomasone was widely regarded as one of the best shot-stoppers in WPL last season.

Jones has come through the Emerging Jets program and has been in the Australian under-16 squad for the past two years and was looking forward to testing herself in WPL.

"I'm excited," Jones told the Newcastle Herald. "I think it's going to be a different type of challenge to what I've had in the past."

Jones opened this year by taking up an invitation to train with Melbourne City for a week then was signed for a one-game stint with Perth Glory as an injury replacement and sat on the bench as they battled the Jets in Newcastle on January 23.

"I was very nervous because it was obviously against my home team and my heart was kind of set in two ways, but I was just so honoured to be called to do that," Jones said.

"I want to continue to make Australian teams, whether that's the next young team or I strive to make the Matildas team in a couple of years, and W-League is definitely something that I want to make in the near future if possible."

Along with Jones, the Eagles have signed Sophie Stapleford and Kaitlin Radstaak from Warners Bay.

Senior player Lisa Cochrane believes the loss of several key players opens the door for young talent like Jones.

"I'm still feeling pretty confident because we have a fair core of the girls who originally were here and when we started we were just random girls put together in a team and now we've come so far," Cochrane said.

"All of the new girls who have come in have really enjoyed the culture we have established here and we're getting 20-plus to training.

"You can tell at training the young ones who have been here are stepping up more and more each training session. It's been really good for developing young players and even for the more experienced players.

"Those younger ones have trained with Tara [Andrews] for the past two years. They've seen what she can do and what level they need to be at."

The Eagles open their title defence with a grand final rematch against Merewether at No.2 Sportsground on March 8.